Amelia's War by Ann Rinaldi

Read: May 1 - May 3
Format: Hardback 263 pages
Source: Public library
Subject: historical accounts, Civil War
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, SYLL, TIOLI
Category: The good old days - Historical Fiction
Genre: Historical Fiction
Stars: ★★★★

I am a Marylander. I was born in Maryland, grew up in Maryland, married in Maryland, and have always lived in Maryland. So when the book opens with "Mama and I were Southerners, but not Rebels. We were for the Union but not the Yankees. You have to be from Maryland to understand it."

I understand.

And yet I don't, and because of that, this book expressed my feelings about the Civil War in many ways. In this fictional account, Amelia Grafton is a pre-teen who lives in the "northern" Maryland town of Hagerstown during the Civil War and it is her personal dilemma which is told so beautifully in this book. Because of its location Hagerstown was frequently "visited" by both the Confederate forces and the Union Army. Amelia's best friend is a Southern sympathizer while her father is whole-heartedly for the Union. Her Mother believes that everyone should be treated with kindness whether they are Yankees or Rebels and the family takes in Aunt Lou, an escaped slave, and try to aid her in her run to freedom.

So there are many conflicts for a young girl to face and then when her brother runs off to join the Union forces, Amelia still feels an inner turmoil. Amelia wants to do something to make her contribution to the war effort, but can't decide what that should be until her moment of truth arrives and she has to do something to try to save her town when a ransom is demanded by the Confederate Army general, the uncle of her best friend.

In readings depicting the Civil War, a reader cannot believe that there is even the slightly possibility of avoiding ugliness. War is ugly and no matter how it might be romanticized by writers, the ugliness will creep through and smack you in the face. In the end, even though Amelia makes her contribution, it isn't without that ugliness reaching out to smack her in the face.

Yes, the book is a romanticized depiction of the real-life ransoming of Hagerstown, Maryland and the manner in which the tale is told is geared more toward the Youth for which the book was written, however, for this Marylander it presents the dilemma that was faced by many during the Civil War in an all too clear light - do you support your state or the nation? IMHO, in that time period, states had a much greater pull for their citizens then a national identity did. Rarely if ever, when asked would someone say they were an American, no they were a Virginian or New Yorker, or Georgian, or Marylander. What a wonderful book to show our youth that decisions are not always easy and that peer pressure should not make them race to a decision.

I want to thank Linda (Whisper1) and VictoriaPL for their recommendation of this book.

1 comment:

Anna and Serena said...

This sounds like an interesting book. I've been living in Maryland for almost 10 years and have yet to explore the state's Civil War history. I know I really should!

You're review will be featured on War Through the Generations on July 4.